Brightest Day has ended and I have to tell you, it’s been quite a ride. For the last year, this bi-monthly title has been given to some of the best and worst creative spurts I’ve seen in the medium. The final issue, Brightest Day #24, is a microcosm of everything that was right and wrong with the whole series. Some of it is downright brilliant, while some of it is ham-fisted and anticlimactic. Overall, Brightest Day #24 feels incomplete, as if some of the earlier ideas had to be dropped or pushed into cliffhangers for upcoming story arcs. If push comes to shove I’ll have to raise thumbs up to Brightest Day simply because it brought back Aquaman.
By far the greatest achievement within this issue is the return of Swamp Thing and Alec Holland. Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi are mindful to balance the original story of Alec Holland as early Swamp Thing with some of the more brilliant work Alan Moore did later on. When Swamp Thing returns, he is still elemental, possessed with the dark spirit of Nekron. When Alec Holland returns, he is a living corpse, unattached to a consciousness and useless. Through a series of events that’s entirely too long-winded to get into, Alec Holland uses the recently returned Boston Brand’s life force to become himself again and unify with the elements to make a “good” Swamp Thing.
It’s hard to argue the greatness of watching good Swamp Thing battle bad Swamp Thing; it gives the cerebral Brightest Day story a shot in the arm of good old fashioned comic book greatness. I also enjoyed the idea that the returned superheroes who had become elements – Firestorm (fire), Aquaman (Water), Hawkman (wind) and Martian Mahunter (Earth) – combine with the good Swamp Thing to make him all powerful. I’m hoping that the very last page of Brightest Day #24 indicates a new Swamp Thing series to come.
Where the book falls apart is the way it wraps up the other characters. Using the White Lantern as an omnipotent master of exposition becomes tedious and the “okay here’s what we all missed” section regarding peripheral characters is also boring. I’m not sure why the re-death of Boston Brand occurred, except for a cheap way to give the series emotional weight. Lastly, the “Earth Day” vibe that Tomasi and Johns inject in the story is way over-the-top. I kept waiting for Swamp Thing to ask for a donation to Al Gore, though I did enjoy when he kills the board of directors of an oil company responsible for a massive spill.
The art is a hodge podge of different pencilers, so the quality of the work is uneven throughout. At times the work leapt from the page and gave great movement to the piece, at other times it just sat there. I will say the gatefold featuring good and bad Swamp Things was awesome, but the rendition of Constantine utterly and completely sucked. Using all the different artists from the book may have seemed like a great send off, but it mainly worked to disrupt the flow. Brightest Day #24 is a decent ending to a series that never really found itself, but who cares, we got Aquaman and Swamp Thing back.